The Days of Whine and Noses

Certain things are just meant to be together.  Peanut butter and jelly. Kermit and Miss Piggy. Back seats and whining.  I am convinced that car manufacturers actually install a device in the back seats to induce whining and route it through the surround sound system.  For activation, all it takes is the pressure of about thirty pounds.  Amazingly, the vehicle doesn’t even have to be moving to trigger this phenomenon.  If only the imaginary brake in the passenger seat could work as well.

Nothing raises my hackles as quickly as a good whine.  In fact, I didn’t even know I had hackles until I had children.  I thought they were reserved for dogs and chickens, but now I know better.  God designed hackles on the back of a parent’s neck so that we could know when we have reached our limit and need to come to Him for help before we implode.

God first realized the need for hackles when the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness.  At first, the trip probably seemed like an exciting adventure.  But then they backed out of the driveway and for forty years the vast, barren wasteland echoed with the ancient equivalent of “Are we there yet?” and “Stop touching me!”

When the Israelites complained about the food and begged for some sort of fast food treat, God provided His children with a snack called manna, also known as “the grain of heaven” and “the bread of angels.”  But were they thankful? N-o-o-o-o-o.  They complained like a bunch of disappointed children on Christmas morning.

“What’s this?  A wafer?  Pfffff!  Where’s the beef?”

Suddenly the car came to a grinding halt and God threatened to “come back there.”

Numbers 11:18-20

 18 …’The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.

19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,

 20 but for a whole month– until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it— because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ‘”

The threat of quail coming out of their nostrils probably brought some radio silence for a few moments.

God truly understands what a parent is going through when a child is whining and complaining.  I witnessed this truth when my kids were recently sick with a cold.  With this illness, my normally happy children gave birth to some sort of internal beast that made Oscar the Grouch seem downright jovial.

Maybe they didn’t have quail coming out of their nostrils, but their noses morphed into faucets of gunk that even the formidable team of Hans Brinker and the Kleenex company couldn’t plug.  The level of whining reached epic proportions and raised my hackles as though hundreds of miniature soldiers were standing at attention on the back of my neck.

At one point I buried my head under my pillow and tried to squelch the toxic combination of constant nose-wiping and whining.  Acting like an ostrich didn’t help, so I tried begging instead.

“God, please.  I can’t deal with this.  I’m going crazy.  Why do they have to be sick like this?  I’m so tired of wiping noses. This whining is unbearable…”

Like the sudden scrape of a needle across a vinyl record, my speech was interrupted when I got smacked in the middle of the forehead by the hand of irony.

Yes, I was whining.  I must have sounded to God exactly how my children sounded to me. The angels were buying their heads under pillows. Worse, I was probably even raising their hackles.

I put up with this for forty years, remember? 

I certainly did not want to be responsible for causing God’s head to implode.  As I bowed my head, I suddenly remembered my wedding vows.

in sickness and in health, for better or for worse

I had pledged these words to my husband, but what about my children?  When everything was going smoothly, it was so easy to focus on my overwhelming love for them.  But add a little tribulation, and I was transported back to the whining wilderness with the children of Israel.

Opening yet another box of Kleenex, I took a deep breath, gathered my little ones, and resumed my position as Royal Nose-Wiper and Whine-Taster.  As I held them close to me, a painful lump formed in my throat, but I knew it wasn’t the beginning of illness.  It was simply the realization that these kids are growing so quickly, and someday I will long for the Days of Whine and Noses.

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The Donkey Within

When God created animals, the donkey got the short end of the stick.  The bunny was designed to be unabashedly cute and the guaranteed first stop at a first grade field trip to the petting zoo.  God fashioned the horse with a sleek and powerful body to represent His own breathtaking majesty.  The donkey must have come late to the party, after all the best prizes had already been taken.  He stood before the Father, ready to have greatness bestowed upon him.

Donkey, you get to be stubbornness personified. 

Donkey must have left that party feeling like a broken piñata, beaten with a stick by a scary mob of sugar-laden children.  Thousands of years later, the melancholy Eeyore came on the scene and put the final nail in Donkey’s public image coffin. 

All is not lost, however. God gave us donkeys to help us understand when our child first has a public temper tantrum in a parking lot.  Oh, this is stubbornness, we think, as our child becomes one with the pavement. Pulling him and our egos out of the wads of gum and crumpled candy wrappers, we begin to wonder if we are fully equipped to handle this strange, new animal known as a “toddler.”

God also used a donkey to teach a lesson to Balak, the king of ancient Moab, who tried to persuade the diviner Balaam to curse the Israelites.  Balak accomplished this the mature way, by pestering the unwilling Balaam like a relentless salesman until he was driven to the point of insanity.  Balaam “saddled up his ass” (which does sound like a modern expression for “hit the road”) and set off on his mission.

God was displeased with Balaam, and He sent an Angel of the Lord to block the way with a sword.  The donkey kept trying to avoid the angel by pushing up against the wall, so Balaam rewarded him with beatings. Any other animal would have relented and curled up to take a nap, but not a stubborn donkey. 

To get Balaam’s attention, God had the donkey speak. And Balaam argued with the animal as if this was a perfectly normal occurrence.  As though every day began with a rousing conversation with his chair or the doorknob.  Donkey was not happy with the abuse.

Hey!  This is how you treat me after I’ve been lugging you around for all these years? You’re treating me like a I’m some jackass…

Uh, you ARE a jackass…

And the argument continued until God opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the foolishness of his ways. The moral of this story is: Do not bother arguing with a donkey, or another stubborn creature such as a small child, for you will never win. 

Last week my seven-year-old daughter demonstrated that stubbornness is not just for toddlers anymore.  Having misplaced her beloved pink headband, she insisted that I had it.

“Mommy, I know you have it.  I saw you take it when you left my room last night.”

“No, you have it,” I responded. “I’m positive that I left it on your desk.”

This same conversation continued throughout the day, and I couldn’t believe how obstinate she was being.  I knew with all certainty that I was right, and I could not be persuaded otherwise.  Until God opened my eyes and I saw the foolishness of my ways.

I returned to my office and saw a glimmer of pink peeking out from a pile of papers on my desk.  It was either the headband or the interior of a mouse’s ear, but I wasn’t sure which one was more frightening.

The headband spoke.

 “So, I hope you like the taste of crow, since that’s what you’ll be eating tonight.”

I argued with it. 

“Come on, we all know this was a set-up.” 

But in the end, of course, I returned the headband and apologized to my daughter.

Could it be that we are all stubborn in our own way, and maybe I shouldn’t feel so sorry for the donkey? After all, who had the honor of carrying Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem?  It wasn’t a bunny or a horse. 

Zechariah 9:9

See, your king comes to you…gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Redemption, for the donkey within us all.